Floating lines are easy to cast, easy to manage, and are the most commonly-used line types in fly fishing. Despite their popularity and effectiveness, sometimes they simply won't cut it. The reason for that is pretty straightforward—a floating line limits how deep you can fish your fly. There are things you can do to get down a little deeper with a floating line like using a longer and/or thinner-diameter leader, adding weight to the leader, and using a weighted fly, but that can be small potatoes compared to the effectiveness of some sink-tip or full-sinking fly lines.
This brings up the question: which of these lines is right for me? With a full-sinking fly line, the entire line sinks at whatever the manufacturer has specified. Since the entire body of the line sinks, this type of line is an excellent choice for getting and keeping a fly down throughout the retrieve. However, they are best suited for places with little to no current (like lakes) where you don’t need to mend the line or manage the fly’s drift.
What is a sink-tip line?
A sink-tip line is built so that only a certain section of the line's end is made to sink. See the line profile above? The dark part is the only section of line that sinks, while the green floats. Manufacturers make this sinking portion in different tapers, configurations, and lengths for various conditions. Speaking of lengths, sinking tips can range from just a few feet to over 20 feet. Although full-sinking lines are the best for keeping the fly down deeper longer, sink-tip lines provide some advantages over full-sinking lines—we've highlighted 3 of the biggest reasons below!
Mending/Line Control: A big advantage with sink-tip lines has to do with the additional control they offer, especially in current. Since only a part of the line sinks and the rest floats right on the surface, it allows the angler to easily mend and re-position that floating line exactly how he or she wants it to help control a drift or swing. In contrast, the entire length of a full-sink line stays under the surface and doesn't allow for such line manipulation. One line isn't superior to the other in all circumstances; they each simply have their own strengths/weaknesses in certain places and/or at certain times. If you fish different bodies of water (even for the same species), you'll likely need both types at some point.
Casting Speed: When you need to get the fly down but also need to be quick with your presentations, a sink-tip line (especially with a short sinking portion) is a great choice. With a short sink-tip, less line will be under the water compared to a full-sink line, which in turn means much less drag/resistance. This allows you to pick up and recast easier without having to strip the line in quite so far, thus making you a faster angler. Especially in scenarios where you're constantly peppering quick casts towards numerous small targets, this line can make you much more efficient by giving you more casts throughout the day. More casts means more fish!
Line Management/Wading: Most notably for the wading or shore-bound angler, the floating section of a sink-tip line can really make life easier. When you're stripping in a line that fully sinks, that loose line not only has increased chances of picking up debris from the surface on down, but that sunken line provides a lot more resistance when trying to feed out/shoot line on the next cast. This is when a stripping basket would really come in handy or even be a necessity. However, when your loose line floats as in a sink-tip line, it's much easier to keep clean, manage, and will leap right off the water's surface when casting.
Support Demystifly by Shopping Fly Lines at